The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) met on November 11, passing motions to allow for the resignation of the Internal Affairs Officer Sahil Kumar, to strike a bylaw allowing for Chief Justice special appointments, and to support a fee levy increase for World University Service of Canada (WUSC) McGill.
Principal Suzanne Fortier, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, and Trenholme Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook were also present at Council, talking to the councillors about issues ranging from the drafting of the Sexual Assault Policy to the renovation of the McLennan-Redpath library complex.
Changes on Council
Sahil Kumar resigned his position as Internal Affairs Officer of PGSS in a motion passed by the council. Kumar took a leave of absence from October 5 to November 2, and his resignation will come into effect December 2. Kumar did not disclose the reasons for his resignation.
The Council then approved dates for a by-election to fill the vacant position. The nomination period began on November 9 and will end on 22, with campaigning occurring from November 23 to 29, and the voting period spanning from November 30 to December 6.
Council also ratified the appointment of a new Speaker, Logan Smith. Smith will replace Nida Nizam, who has occupied the position since 2012.
Motion of support for WUSC levy
Council heard from Sujay Neupane, a member of WUSC McGill. Neupane spoke in support of a consumer price index (CPI) adjustment to the WUSC levy to sponsor the group’s Student Refugee Program (SRP), which works to sponsor students from refugee camps pursuing their undergraduate degree at McGill.
The SRP started at McGill in 1986 with a referendum that passed a levy of $1 per academic year. However, since 1986, the fee levy has not been adjusted according to CPI. To adjust for the error, the fee would need to be increased to $1.92 retroactively.
“Because there was no local committee at McGill in the nineties, all this money was being accumulated, and with the present levy […] we’re able to sponsor two students every year right now,” Neupane said.
“The accumulated money is running out and a dollar levy is only enough to sponsor one student.”
“Next year we’re going to sponsor four more students, for a total of six, and McGill is paying for the four students […] for [that] one year. But after that, for 2017, again we’re going to go back to sponsoring two students. But we can no longer do that as of 2018, because the accumulated money is running out and a dollar levy is only enough to sponsor one student,” he added.
The adjusted fee constitutes a 92 per cent increase, and the University has asked WUSC to call a referendum on the matter.
According to Neupane, should the levy cease to exist, and should there be no committee in the future, “this program might just end. [….] We want to make a statement to McGill admin [… that] ‘Look, PGSS supports us.’”
Council voted to support the motion, as WUSC McGill is still negotiating terms with the University.
Sexual Assault Policy
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier was also present at Council, speaking with cautious optimism about the future of research funding under the new federal Liberal government, and stressing the importance of “curiosity-driven research and purpose-driven research.”
During the question period, Fortier addressed queries regarding allegations of intimate relationships between professors and research assistants.
“We have to […] be careful in respecting [professors’] private lives,” stated Fortier. She noted, “We must also ensure that people have higher standards of professional conduct.”
Fortier stated that dealing with such issues “is not taking a position on morality but on professionalism.”
“We have to […] be careful in respecting [professors’] private lives.”
Ollivier Dyens, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), told Council that Dean of Students André Costopoulos was working with the student-run Sexual Assault Policy Working Group (SAPWG) to create a policy, which would include student-professor relationships.
Dyens emphasized the importance of “giving to students the quick access to talk about these things,” and making it easy for students to come forward with an allegation of assault without fear of jeopardizing their academic standing or opportunities.
Renovation of McLennan-Redpath library complex
Additionally, Council heard from Trenholme Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook about the proposed renovation of the McLennan-Redpath library complex.
Cook spoke about a day-long survey conducted in November 2014, which found that “one out of every five students was in one of our libraries during this eight to ten hour period, and [… they] were there to work.” According to Cook, the vast majority of students used libraries for solo or group studying, while only a small fraction accessed physical texts.
The renovation plan proposes to build a three-story robotic storage facility underneath Lower Field, which would house McGill’s large collection of rare and special texts.
“What this does is allow us to free up those spaces that are currently occupied by stacks into […] totally flexible user spaces,” Cook told Council.
The project, called “Fiat Lux” (Latin for “let there be light”), will integrate a large glass-enclosed seating area along the McLennan-Redpath Terrace, preserving the stone walls of the original building.
The project will also renovate the facade of the library facing McTavish and provide a corridor within the renovated library for students to pass through from McTavish to Redpath Terrace.